Lee caps historic night with grand slam
Left fielder's blast makes Biggio's 3,000th hit more memorable
HOUSTON -- In a game that will be remembered for Craig Biggio's 3,000th career hit and ensuing celebration, it was actually hit No. 3,002 that proved to be the most important.
With the Astros trailing by a run and down to their final strike in the bottom of the 11th inning against Colorado closer Brian Fuentes, Biggio slowly tapped a pitch to third base and hustled down the line, narrowly beating the throw to first for an infield single and keeping the inning alive.
Three batters later, Carlos Lee hit a walk-off grand slam to the Crawford Boxes, giving the Astros an improbable 8-5 come-from-behind victory over Colorado and ending one of the most memorable regular-season games in franchise history with a flourish.
"It's a lot more fun to win the game so we can celebrate a lot better," Lee said. "It was kind of a crazy game. All the things that have been happening to us over the last three months happened to someone else. It feels good. I hope we can take this win and turn the season around."
After Biggio's infield single, Hunter Pence grounded a pitch up the middle that somehow barely eluded the gloves of both Fuentes and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Then, Fuentes drilled Lance Berkman in the hip to load the bases and set the scene for Lee.
"I hit it good," Lee said. "I didn't know if it was going to stay fair. I was looking at the ball and telling it to stay fair, and the pitcher at the same time was pushing it the other way.
"I knew Hunter Pence was at second base. I wasn't trying to do too much. Just hit the ball back up the middle and get a base hit and Hunter's going to score [to win the game, 6-5]. It's funny how this game works, I was just trying to hit the ball back through the middle and I hit a home run."
For Biggio, the record and the win provided a pick-me-up for three months of disappointing baseball.
"Our season's been frustrating so far -- we've had so many disappointments," Biggio said. "When the bullpen came in, [we] picked each other up after that. Today was a huge day to get the win and win like we did."
The Astros and Rockies slumbered through the first 6 1/2 innings, with the only scoring coming on a third-inning home run from Colorado's Chris Iannetta. Houston starter Roy Oswalt wasn't at his best, allowing nine hits and two walks in seven innings, but he limited the damage when he had to and kept the Astros within a run.
"I left a few pitches up in the middle innings where guys hit a few gifts, but I felt like I had a good enough fastball that if I got in trouble, I could always go back to it and rely on it," Oswalt said. "And I was able to get out of a few jams."
Then, the fireworks started.
Brad Ausmus led off the inning with a single to center, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Eric Bruntlett. With two outs and Ausmus on second, Biggio lined his third single of the game to right-center field for his 3,000th career hit, scoring Ausmus to tie the game.
Although Biggio was thrown out by center fielder Willy Taveras trying to advance to second, the end of the inning did little to dampen the celebration. Every member of the Astros team rushed the field to mob Biggio, while his family and children came out and received hugs. Even former teammate Jeff Bagwell came onto the field to honor Biggio.
The celebration lasted almost 10 minutes and had the sold-out crowd of 42,537 at Minute Maid Park on its feet and screaming for the duration.
"He had a fantastic night tonight," manager Phil Garner said. "He drove in the tying run and figured big in the inning where we won the ballgame. That's pretty remarkable. That was beautiful for Craig."
However, the euphoria in the park was short-lived. Trever Miller surrendered a one-out double in the eighth inning to Garrett Atkins, and pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs homered to right-center off Chad Qualls to put Colorado in front, 3-1.
Qualls then yielded two more singles, including an opposite-field flare from Iannetta that drove in another run, chasing Qualls from the game to a chorus of boos from the once ecstatic crowd.
But unlike many games in recent days where the bullpen has come unglued, the Astros offense fought back this time. Lance Berkman drilled a one-out homer to left-center to slice the lead to 4-2. Two batters later, Mark Loretta lined a single up the middle.
Then, Mike Lamb blasted a two-out shot to the right-center-field bullpen, tying the game and sending Minute Maid Park into a frenzy once again.
"I had a feeling [in the eighth] inning, I felt there might be something special in the ballpark tonight," Berkman said. "Sometimes when you play, you have a feeling that this is going to be one of those nights. And it was."
Biggio then led off the ninth with a line-drive single to right field -- his fourth single of the game and 3,001st of his career, passing Roberto Clemente for 26th on the all-time list. Biggio's 5-for-6 night was his first five-hit performance since April 3, 2001.
But Biggio was retired on a forceout from Pence, and the Astros were unable to push the winning run across before extras.
In the top of the 11th, Tulowitzki hit a towering blast off Brian Moehler to put the Rockies in front, 5-4, sending many fans to the exits. But unlike the recent 2-7 road trip, the Astros consistently answered each challenge from the opposing offense.
"It was very neat to watch today unfold," Chris Burke said. "To think that everything happened the way it did -- for [Biggio] to get five hits when he gets 3,000 -- it's just a day we'll all remember forever.
"If you can't build momentum off a night like tonight, you just can't. I think everybody's pretty pumped up about the way things unfolded and it's exciting. We need a lot of things to start going our way, and we would love to build off of this.
"It felt like it was all meant to be."
Ben DuBose is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.